Play Right: Science Experiments for Kids

New JammiesFor New Jammies kids, Spring brings a sense of renewal to the world, with plants sprouting and flowers blooming. The rain and the sun team up to boost and nourish the new seasonal growth. Spring is a perfect time to teach the wonders of science to kids with fun and easy projects to create at home. Check out these ideas for hands-on learning and play in nature:


Bean Sprout Science Experiment

The website education.com offers a simple Bean Sprout Science Activity that teaches kids how flowers bloom. “When springtime arrives, your third grader might wonder why there are so many new flowers and plants. This awesome hands-on science activity addresses your young learner’s questions,” education.com says. “He’ll get to observe the life of a bean sprout seed and see what happens when it is properly fed and sheltered.”

What You Need:
• Water
• Paper and pencil
• Paper towels
• Baking sheet
• 3 types of bean seeds (mung, green, lima)

Bean sproutsWhat You Do:
1. Give one of each bean to your child to observe, explaining that each bean has a little opening for water to go inside.

2. Have your little scientist lay a few stacked damp paper towels onto the baking sheet, and put the beans on top. Put a few more stacked damp paper towels on top of the beans. Set the baking sheet aside in a sunny place. Make sure this spot isn’t too sunny, so the beans might get scorched.

3. Ask your child to write down some thoughts on a piece of paper. Have him predict the life cycle of a bean. How long will it take for it to fully sprout?

4. Each day, have your child re-wet the paper towels. Has anything changed in the beans?

5. At the end of a week, your scientist’s beans will have likely sprouted! Otherwise, wait and keep observing. When the beans have sprouted, ask your child about the little plants. Ask him what the purpose of a hard exterior is, what the seed needed to grow, and how plants outside grow.

6. You can take this fun project a little further and plant the seeds outside.

Click to download a printable version of this activity here.

See this activity in a set: Learn About the World Without Going Far


Homegrown Eggshell Geode Crystals

Geodes“Science Bob” Pflugfelder is a science teacher, author and presenter who is a regular guest on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Live With Kelly, The Dr. Oz Show, and Nickelodeon’s Nicky, Ricky, Dicky and Dawn. He encourages parents and teachers to practice “Random Acts of Science” by providing instructions and videos for interactive science experiments on his website, sciencebob.com. This science project from the website, provided by mom blogger and photographer Melissa Howard, helps kids grow their own geodes, with a little help from Mom and Dad.

“This project nicely demonstrates how real-life geodes are formed in igneous and sedimentary rock. It also demonstrates super-saturated solutions and shows a nice variety of crystal shapes and formations,” says sciencebob.com.

What You Need:
• Clean eggshells
• Water
• A variety of soluble solids: table salt, rock salt, sugar, baking soda, Epsom salts, sea salt, borax, or cream of tartar
• Small heat proof containers (coffee cups work well)
• Spoons
• Food coloring
• Egg cartons and wax paper or mini-muffin tins

What You Do:
1. Crack the eggs for this project as close to the narrow end as possible. This preserves more egg to use as a container for the solution.

2. Clean the eggshells using hot water. The hot water cooks the lining and allows you to pull the skin (egg membrane) out of the inside of the egg using your fingers. Make sure to remove all the egg membrane, if any membrane stays inside the shell it is possible that your eggshell will grow mold and your crystals will turn black.

3. Use an egg carton lined with waxed paper or mini-muffin tins to hold the eggs upright.

4. Use a saucepan to heat the water to boiling. Pour half a cup to a cup of water into your heatproof container. If you poured half a cup of water into the container, add about a ¼ cup of solid to the water. Stir it until it dissolves. Likewise if you used a cup of water, add about ½ a cup of solid to the water. You wanted to add about half again the volume of the water as a solid to the mixture.

5. When the initial amount of solid is dissolved continue adding small amounts of the solid until the water is super-saturated. Super-saturated simply means the water has absorbed all it is able to absorb and any solid you add will not dissolve.

6. Add food coloring.

7. Carefully pour your solution into the eggshell, filling it as full as possible without over-flowing it or causing it to tip.

8. Find a safe place to put your shells while the water evaporates. Crystals will form inside the eggshells as the water evaporates.

How it Works
Dissolving the crystals in hot water created what is called a “super-saturated solution.” This basically means that the salts took advantage of the energy of the hot water to help them dissolve until there was no more space between molecules in the solution. As the solution cooled, the water lost its energy and the crystals are forced from the solution to become a solid again. Since this happens slowly along with the evaporation, the crystals have time to grow larger than they were when the experiment started. Natural geodes in rock are form in much the same way as mineralized water seeps into air pockets in rock. This is also how rock candy crystals are formed.


Build Your Own Terrarium

Terrarium
KidsGardening.org creates opportunities for kids to learn though gardening, engaging their natural curiosity and wonder by providing inspiration, community know-how and resources. For 35 years, KidsGardening has led the school gardening movement, and as a national nonprofit is dedicated to improving nutritional attitudes, educational outcomes, social and emotional learning and environmental stewardship in youth across the country through garden-based learning. Their website features garden activities and crafts, including this project on how to build a terrarium, a miniature garden grown inside a covered glass or plastic container.

“It is a low maintenance way to incorporate plants into your classroom or home and an excellent tool for teaching children about the water cycle as it demonstrates evaporation, condensation and precipitation. In the presence of light and heat, water evaporates from the plants through transpiration and from the soil,” says kidsgardening.org. “Since it is an enclosed environment, when the water vapor hits the side of the container, it condenses. Once enough water accumulates or the temperature decreases, the condensation will then precipitate down the sides of the container back into the soil.”

What You Need:
• An enclosed container
• Pea gravel or small rock
• Potting soil
• Small indoor or tropical plants
• Charcoal (optional)

What You Do:
1. Find an appropriate container. Glass jars, fish bowls and tanks, clear plastic bottles and food containers can all make fine terrariums. Just make sure there is enough room to reach your hand into your container for planting and maintenance.

2. Clear plastic soda bottles are commonly used in school settings because they are readily available and inexpensive. To create, cut off the top of a large, clear plastic soda bottle, leaving a container that is approximately 8 inches tall. After planting in the soda bottle, you can either tape the top back onto the soda bottle or just cover it tightly with plastic. Clean the container using soapy water and rinse well. Dry completely.

3. Cover the bottom of the container with ½ inch (for small containers) to 1-1/2 inch (for large containers) of pea gravel for drainage. This mimics the bedrock found under our soils and allows access water to drain from the soil. You can also add a few granules of filtering charcoal (not the type used for barbecuing) to the top of the gravel to help remove odors. The charcoal is optional and is not needed if your terrarium maintains proper moisture levels.

4. Next fill the container to approximately one-third to one-half full with moist potting mix. The amount of soil you put in will depend on the size of the container (you need to have enough room for plant roots). Use a sterilized potting soil mix to avoid problems with molds and fungi (small bags of potting soil are available at most garden centers).

5. The moisture level of the soil when you put it into your terrarium is very important. Pour the soil into a bowl or tub and mix with water until the soil is moist enough to cling together in a ball when pressed into the hand. If water drips from the soil when pressed into a ball, then it is too wet and you should add more dry potting soil to your mixture. Once you find the perfect balance, place the soil in your container. Try to avoid getting soil particles stuck on the sides of the container above the soil level.

6. Many potting mixes contain slow release fertilizers. If the soil you purchased does not contain any fertilizer you may want to add a small number of slow release fertilizer pellets or some organic fertilizer like worm castings to your mix before planting. You want your plants to stay small and grow slowly, so you do not need much.

7. Next add your plants. Look for plants that are small, slow-growing, and perform well in humid environments. How you arrange the plants will depend on the size and location of the terrarium. If you will be viewing the terrarium from one side, then place the tallest plants in the back and shortest plants in the front. If your terrarium will be viewed from all sides or you plan to rotate it, plant the tallest plants in the middle and the shorter plants along the outside.

8. There is a wide range of plants to choose from. Most garden centers have an area reserved for indoor plants and you can usually find a variety of plants in 2 to 4 inch pots. Some recommended plants to use include: African violet, artillery fern, false aralia, jade plant, miniature peperomia, nerve plant, oxalis, pink polka dot plant, prayer plant, small, ferns, small peace lilies, small philodendrons, spider plant, strawberry begonia, and Swedish ivy. These are just a few suggestions. Experiment with different plants. If they appear to grow too vigorously or respond poorly to the humidity, remove them and try something new. You can also try growing plants from seeds and cuttings.

9. In addition to plant material, you can also be creative and add other objects to create mini-landscape scenes. For instance you may want to add decorative rocks, small animal figurines, small bridges or mirrors to look like mini ponds.

10. After planting, attach the container lid or cover with plastic. Place the terrarium in a windowsill with indirect lighting or under grow lights. Do not place it in strong direct sunlight or water will evaporate too quickly and plants may scorch.

11. Observe your terrarium closely for the first few days to make sure you have the proper moisture level. You’ll know that the terrarium contains the right amount of water if the sides and top get misty with water droplets when in bright light. If there is no moisture along the sides, then you need to add some more water. If the sides are always very wet and it is hard to see the plants, then there’s too much water and you should remove the top for a few hours and allow some of the excess water to evaporate. Once you achieve the perfect balance, it will not need frequent attention.

12. Check on your terrarium periodically. Prune or remove plants with excessive growth. You want to avoid plant leaves touching the sides of the container as much as possible to prevent constant water sitting on the foliage. Also check on the moisture levels as some water may be lost over time.

Click to download a printable PDF of this garden activity.

 

New Jammies was born as an environmentally responsible company offering 100% certified organic cotton and flame retardant-free children’s pajamas. Learn more at newjammies.com.

Play Right: Springtime Activities for the Kids

Bug's Life PJ Short Set

New Jammies Bug’s Life PJ Short Set

To spring means to move or jump suddenly or rapidly upward and forward, so it’s only appropriate for New Jammies kids to get out and get some exercise this month. Enter Spring, and Earth Day on April 22, and the chance to establish an active lifestyle while celebrating Mother Earth.

“Regular exercise in nature is proven to improve children’s physical and mental health. Outdoor activity helps kids maintain a healthy weight, boosts their immunity and bone health, and lowers stress,” says letsmove.gov, a government initiative to raise a healthier generation of kids.

“Kids need at least 60 minutes of active and vigorous play each day to stay healthy, and one of the easiest and most enjoyable ways to meet this goal is by playing outside. By linking parents to nearby parks, trails and waters – and providing tips and ideas – Let’s Move! Outside can help families develop a more active lifestyle.”

Let’s Move! Outside was created to get kids and families to take advantage of America’s great outdoors. Earth Day and Spring are the perfect moments to try some new games and activities outside with the kids, including biking.

“Biking is a fun, family-friendly activity that can help improve endurance and balance,” says letsmove.org. “Use your bike as a means of ‘active transport’ to get places faster while also getting healthier. Explore your community by bike with your family and get everyone active.”

Walking and hiking around, exploring the outdoors, and collecting found items while learning about science can also be great springtime activities for the kids.

“Traveling by foot is a fun, easy and affordable way to get moving and get outside. From a walk around the block to a mountain hike — there are a lot of new places to explore,” says letsmove.org. “Activities like hiking and walking have been shown to improve cardiovascular health and build stronger bones. Stay healthy by making physical activity a part of your family’s routine.”

New Jammies StripesOn PBS.org, PBS Kids encourages children to turn off electronics and play, offering a variety of games to play outdoors. One includes Clothespin Tag, a game submitted by Craig of Moultonborough, New Hampshire. Here are the fun and easy rules:

• Keep your clothespin to win.
• This game is for 5 or more players and should be played outside or in an open area.
• To play, you need one clothespin for each player.
• Clip a clothespin to the back of your shirt. On the word “Go!,” try to steal the other players’ clothespins without letting anyone get your clothespin.
• When your clothespin is taken or falls off, you’re out.
• The last player with a clothespin wins.

Another creative game to encourage imagination outdoors is Snake in the Grass, sent in by Alexis of Texas:

A slithery game of tag, this game is for 4 or more players and should be played in an open area.

• To play, mark off an area to be your playing field.
• One player is the snake. That person has to crawl around and move like a snake.
• The snake tries to tag the other players, who run around trying to stay away from the snake.
• If the snake tags you, then you become a snake, too. (That means you have to move like a snake and try to tag the other players!)
• Snakes and runners are not allowed to go outside the playing area.
• The last runner left is the winner.

This game challenges the mind and stimulates imagination as well, and can be played indoors if the spring weather turns to rain or cold:

Casting Call, sent in by Lyndsay of Blythe, California
If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. To play, you’ll need at least 3 people.

• Pick one person to be the director.
• The game is played like Simon Says. The director tells the other players what to do.
• Instead of saying, “Simon Says,” the director will say, “Action!”
• The other players will only stop when the director says, “Cut!”
• If the director says, “Act like a chicken, NOW!” and a player acts like a chicken, he’s out because the director didn’t say, “Action!”
• The last person left in the game gets to be the director in the next round.

Lastly, from allfreekidscrafts.com, these activities are perfect for Earth Day, Earth Month and all year long:

Mason JarsMini Mason Jar Grass Heads
By Jennifer Martin from Mom vs the Boys

Your kids can learn how to grow grass in a jar with this craft idea for kids. A great spring craft idea for all ages, you and your little ones can use these Mini Mason Jar Grass Heads to celebrate the coming of spring or to celebrate Earth Day. This easy kids’ craft also doubles as a cool science project idea. This recycled craft is budget-friendly because it gives you the chance to reuse empty baby food jars, and it does not require too many crafting supplies. Your kids can use whatever materials they wish to create their funky and fun jar faces. Each jar turns out with its own, unique personality!

Materials: Nature Crafts, Recycled Crafts, Mixed Media/Miscellaneous
Age Group: Preschool & Kindergarten, Elementary School

Read more at http://www.allfreekidscrafts.com/Kids-Outdoor-Crafts-and-Activities/Mini-Mason-Jar-Grass-Heads#9MfL4twrs5RRh6RB.99

Homemade Chalk PaintHomemade Chalk Paint Adventure Trail
By Craftingconnections.net

“Sidewalk chalk paint is a great way to enjoy these cooler summer days (when you dont melt every time you step outside) and is a fun twist on your typical outdoor chalk. Take it a step farther by letting your little one take you on an Adventure Trail that they create. By letting your toddler or preschooler lead the way, you both are sure to go on a grand adventure. And when you are ready to head back? Just follow your trail home!”

What you’ll need:

• 1/4 cup of corn starch
• 1/4 cup of water
• Fold coloring
• Container with a tight-fitting lid
• Paintbrush
• (Optional) Bucket

Age Group: Toddlers, Preschool & Kindergarten

• Pour the 1/3-1/2 cup of water into a container.

• Add 1/4 cup of corn starch to the water.

• Add a few drops of food coloring, making it as light or dark as you would like.

(Psst – we tried this with washable tempera paint too, but found that the tempera-colored sidewalk paint didn’t wash away easily, so we suggest that you stick with food coloring. If you are concerned about staining, use just a little bit of food coloring – your paint will be more pastel, but will easily wash away.)

• Shake it up and paint!

Read more at http://www.allfreekidscrafts.com/Kids-Outdoor-Crafts-and-Activities/Chalk-Paint-Adventure-Trail#fQVjc0TDdjp0C9hz.99 and craftingconnections.net

Eat Right: Honor Mother Earth with Green Earth Day Recipes

New Jammies Butterfly Magic Sleep SackOn April 22, New Jammies and the world celebrates 45 years of Earth Day, an international event that advocates for the environment through education, public policy, and consumer campaigns. More than a billion people participate in Earth Day campaigns every year. This spring, you and your kids can take part in many ways, including what you eat.

Reducing our carbon footprint and buying, or growing your own, organic in-season fruits and vegetables are one way Earth Day can be a lesson for kids. Following these Earth Day-inspired recipes can be perfect for spring and made with organic ingredients. And best of all — healthy.

Parsley, Kale, and Berry Smoothie
Courtesy bonappetit.com with recipe by Seamus Mullen

Ingredients
Servings: 2
1/2 cup (packed) flat-leaf parsley (leaves and stems)
4 kale leaves (center ribs removed)
1 cup frozen organic berries (such as strawberries or raspberries)
1 banana (cut into pieces)
1 teaspoon ground flaxseed

Preparation
Purée ingredients with 1 cup water in a blender until smooth (add water if too thick).

Editor’s note: The comment section of this recipe suggested using coconut water for the water, so that could provided added flavor to this vitamin-packed snack.

Healthy Green (and Blue) Fruit Kabobs
Courtesy SparkRecipes.com

Ingredients
Serving size: 12 skewers; 1 per serving
1 large Granny Smith or other green apple, cored and chopped
1 T lemon juice
2 kiwis, peeled and chopped
2 cups honeydew melon, chopped
1 cup seedless green grapes
12 wooden skewers
New Jammies Earth Day idea: 1 cup blueberries for added color

Tips
If you skip the green apples, you can make these up to 24 hours ahead of time. Even after they are coated in lemon juice, the apples will start to oxidize within hours.

Directions
Toss the apples in the lemon juice.
Thread all the fruit onto the skewers. You want 5-6 pieces (8-10 when adding blueberries) per skewer. Refrigerate for up to 6 hours.

Bright Spring Day Asparagus Pasta
Courtesy motherearthnews.com

Ingredients
Serves 4 to 6
2 cups vegetable (or chicken) stock
8 ounces fresh mushrooms, quartered
12 ounces bowtie pasta
2 pounds asparagus, trimmed, chopped into 1-inch pieces with tips left whole
1 cup peas
1 cup fresh cooking greens (e.g., spinach, chard, dandelion), stems removed
2 tbsp olive oil
10 ounces smoked ham, such as Black Forest, diced (optional)
1 large leek (white and pale green parts) or sweet onion, chopped
2 to 4 cloves garlic, diced
1/2 cup lemon crema (see recipe at end of recipe)
2 tbsp coarse brown mustard
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Garnish: 1/4 cup chives, chopped

Instructions
Bring stock and mushrooms to a boil. Remove from heat and let steep. Add pasta to boiling water, and cook for 7 minutes. Add asparagus, peas and greens, and cook 3 minutes more, or until pasta is al dente. Drain the liquid and return the pasta and veggies to the pot with 1/2 tablespoon olive oil to keep the pasta from sticking.

Heat remaining oil in a deep skillet, then sauté ham (if using), leek and garlic over medium heat for a few minutes. Stir in the crema, mustard, stock and mushrooms, and cook over medium heat for a couple minutes. Toss with pasta mixture, season with salt and pepper, sprinkle with chives, and serve immediately.

Lemon Crema
Crema is a zingier cousin of American sour cream.
Ingredients:
2 cups cream
1/4 cup buttermilk
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Dash sea salt
Twist freshly ground white pepper

Instructions:
Heat cream to about 90 degrees, then remove from heat and stir in buttermilk. Cover and allow it to sit at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours, until thickened. Whisk in the lemon juice and zest, season with salt and pepper, and refrigerate.

Blueberry Kiwi Fool
Courtesy recipe.com

Ingredients
Servings: 6
2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries, thawed
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 tablespoon sugar
3 – 4 kiwifruit, peeled and cut up (1 cup)

Directions
In a shallow dish mash 1 cup of the blueberries with a potato masher. (Or puree with a mini food chopper, food processor, or blender.) Stir cinnamon into mashed blueberries.

In a medium bowl beat whipping cream and sugar until cream is very thick. Fold in mashed blueberries.

In individual 6- to 7-ounce glasses or dishes, layer whipped cream mixture with remaining blueberries and kiwifruit. Serve immediately or cover and chill up to 2 hours before serving.

Editor’s note: This recipe is only 122 calories and 8 grams of fat per serving and is a great source of fiber, calcium and Vitamins A and C.